Both raised in Harare, Kudakwashe Musasiwa (28,) & Munyaradzi Nota (26,) powerfully articulate the voice of the growing community of young people, brought up amidst the actual realities of global culture. The irony of their upbringing in Zimbabwe’s capital is the fact that the Harare they grew up in, is in parts as urban as any city in the west. So much so, that for a large part of their youth, they found their voice within the last decade’s youth culture of choice, hip-hop, (as Begotten Sun & Nota, they were founder members of the hip-hop group DKR. However, as time passed, they began to feel unable to fully express themselves within its boundaries. In fact, hip-hop had actually become a primary part of the dominant western culture that was being sold to them wholesale, with little regard for the local peculiarities that had helped shape the sustainable culture of their forbearers.
Hence they looked within, seeking inspiration from a culture that was one of the last to fall to colonial influence. The album’s primary instrument, the 23 key ‘mbira dzevadzimu,’ is the most developed within the family of lamellophones, (an instrument group which includes the more commonly known ’kalimba.’) Shona mbira music actually stands as a genre in itself, and reveals, even in its rawest form, clear links to many of today’s chanted & spoken word music forms. (Reggae) Legend Bob Marley, easily shared the stage with Zimbabwe’s leading mbira ambassador, Thomas Mapfumo, during the 1980 ceremony to celebrate Zimbabwe’s liberation from colonialism.
‘Kudakwashe / Munyaradzi,’ the resultant recording, is a listening experience in which the music clearly speaks for itself. Perhaps the cohesiveness of the effort is due to the fact that the duo equally share all creative & technical aspects of the project, between themselves, (including their records’ final mixing, and design of the unique cover art & web-portals.) This intimate ethic extends to an engaging live set which sees Kuda & Munya perform on mbira & acoustic guitar, accompanied by an expandable three piece band. The mbira’s sound is haunting, enchanting and soothing in turns. Complimented by a rhythm section that is in itself a master class in syncopation, this soundscape gives a fitting backdrop to Kuda & Munya’s powerful social commentary. More so, the two employ a noticeably wide range of literary devices, in a vocal effort that offers a rare glimpse into the mindset of the young, ‘global citizen.’
The duality of the two disc set, allows good insight into the inner workings of the individuals involved, and helps listeners appreciate the scope of the musicality employed. ‘Taurayi Nesu,\' ‘Kudakwashe’s’ opening track, sees Kuda seamlessly work around the mbira, in a style that is highly melodic. One soon comes to sympathise with the uncompromising voice of a young man, struggling to find a place in a world from which he feels increasingly alienated, (both in the homeland of his youth, and in the country in which he now lives as an economic migrant.) ‘Munyaradzi’, on the other hand, sees Munya employ a more ambiguous tone, to broadly address the current state of the human condition. Musically, the fierce polyrhythmic sound typical in traditional mbira play, is interestingly cut into by heavily syncopated rhythms and vocals. This juxtaposition is apparent on the disc’s opening track, Maricho, which sees a driving bass riff periodically dip in and out of a lush mbira lead arrangement.
All in all, ‘Kudakwashe / Munyaradzi’ is a journey, an undeniable experience with a relevance and appeal that is cross-generational. Echoes of the past sit side by side with a mind state speaking firmly to, and on behalf of, today.